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Test yourself: Top 5 storm chasing myths and dangers

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By Dayna Vettese
Meteorologist
@daynavettese
Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 11:38


STORM HUNTERS: Storm Hunter Mark Robinson and Weather Network meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal are heading to Tornado Alley. Check back for frequent updates on their coverage in the U.S.


Top 5 Storm Chasing Myths

1. You can always out-drive a tornado – FALSE
Tornadoes can travel at highway speeds. This means you may not be able to “out-drive” a tornado.

2. You’re safe in your vehicle – FALSE
Tornadoes are strong enough to lift of train cars so they’re powerful enough to lift a vehicle. Also, debris can impact the vehicle which is unsafe.

3. Storm chasers are immune to tornadoes – FALSE
There’s a misconception that if you’re s storm chaser, you will successfully maneuver the way out of danger or can drive into a tornado and survive. This is certainly not the case. Sometimes events come together that may block your escape route, for example. Storm chasers are in danger as well and it is a risk to be out there.

4. It’s non-stop storm and tornado action while out on a chase trip – FALSE
This is most certainly false! On a typical chase trip, you’re likely to see storms but storms and tornadoes are not a guarantee. In fact, most chase trips you usually see one tornado at most. Many chasers have experienced a storm chase season without seeing a single tornado. There is a lot of down town during a chase trip.

5. Tornadoes don’t hit big cities or cross rivers or move over hills – FALSE
Tornadoes are not conscious of whether or not they’re over a farm field or in a big city. Tornadoes can move through big cities just as easily as they can through rural areas. Tornadoes can also very easily move across water and hills.


SEE ALSO: Reality of storm chasing


Top 5 Items Every Storm Chaser Should Have

Knowledge!
You can’t just head out with a radar app in hand and a GoPro and storm chase. Well, you can but one of two things will happen: you’ll be in a very dangerous and potentially life threatening situation or you’ll see nothing at all. You need meteorology knowledge (how to forecast storms and where tornadoes are likely to form), you need radar interpretation knowledge (know what you’re seeing on radar) and you need visual knowledge! No radar can replace what you’re seeing from the ground so you need to know what features you’re looking at.

Radar Software
A program that shows radar (velocity and reflectivity) that can map your GPS location on it is ideal. This way you can see where your location is relative to the storm. You will need the item above (knowledge) in order to interpret the radar.

Using radar software to track a tornadic supercell thunderstorm on radar as we navigate to and around it to get a good view from a safe vantage point.

Using radar software to track a tornadic supercell thunderstorm on radar as we navigate to and around it to get a good view from a safe vantage point.

Mapping Software and Paper Map
Mapping software is also key so you can plan your route and find roads at a moment’s notice. Paper maps are always a great back up to this. The nice thing about mapping software is you can map your GPS location so you know exactly where you are.

Weather Radio and/or HAM Radio
Weather radios are important as they will alert you to dangerous storms. HAM radios are a great form of communication from vehicle to vehicle without needed a cell signal. Cell service isn’t the greatest in the rural areas of Tornado Alley but HAM radios will always transmit signals.

Camera and Video Camera
You want to be able to document what you’re seeing. You spend all this time and money trying to see a tornado, you want to able to document it.


CANADA'S TORNADO ALLEY: Tornadoes in Canada: Everything you need to know


Top 5 Dangers to Storm Chasers

Tornadoes
Enough said. Tornadoes are dangerous and deadly.

Lightning
Lightning is incredible dangerous. It is not something you can predict. You never know lightning will strike and so there really isn’t a way to prepare for it except staying in a safe place (inside your vehicle with the doors closed and windows up).

Hail
Hail is incredibly dangerous! They’re solid blocks of ice falling from the sky at incredible speed. Hail can be as small as peas or as large as softballs and grapefruits. If you’re outside in a hail storm, especially large hail, impacts on your body or vehicle from the hail will do damage. A hit to the head with a softball sized hail stone would do serious damage.

Large hail after a storm in Texas.

Large hail after a storm in Texas.

Wildlife
Wildlife can be dangerous! There are ticks, poisonous spiders, and venomous snakes. Also, deer scattering across the highway are very dangerous. One of the biggest dangers to storm chasers are hitting deer while driving.

Driving
Driving anywhere is dangerous. There is always the risk of getting into an accident. Now add thousands of kilometers of driving, plus the added anxiety of storms, plus the distractions of cool looking clouds, radar and satellite, and the hordes of storm chasers out there doing the same thing and you’ve increased your chances of a vehicle accident. There’s also an increased chance of flat tires!


STORM CHASING ETIQUETTE: Staying alive in the high risk world of storm chasing


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